Public and private, privileged and poor, profound and practical, Weil defies expectation and compartmentalization. With utter frankness and humility, she positions herself between the inside and the outside. She surprises herself as much as she does us with her unfolding spirituality, her clarity regarding organized religion, and her union with God. At once lofty and down to earth, a (non-official) convert and critic, Weil is a kindred spirit to anyone who embraces the complexity of life on the periphery and receptiveness to the ever evolving mystery of faith.
It’s no secret that 2020 was an exceptionally challenging year, and the mental and emotional exhaustion that it caused left me tempted to scrap 2021 resolutions. But I know myself, and I know that goals energize me and help me focus my time and energy on the things that I value most. My plans for this next year make me excited to turn the calendar page, even if they look different than they usually do.
With a history that stretches across millennia, our faith is a repository of wisdom on what it means to live: To walk this Earth is to wait and prepare, to embrace humility, to welcome the stranger, to mess up and try again, to suffer, to speak our truth, to sorrow, and to be in community. As the liturgical year systematically invites us to reflect on how we are doing as humans—Are we practicing courage? Living with openness to the spirit? Extending mercy and forgiveness?—it ensures that we aren’t just stumbling from one phase of human development to the next. The liturgical year, if embraced as a life curriculum, helps us to actually develop, living not just any life but a good life.
Grace before meals, toasts, and birthday blessings are opportunities to bring a crowd together, to bestow affirmation and to remind everyone present of what matters most in life. So next time you find yourself with a group of family members or friends and the opportunity to give thanks, to celebrate, or to bless presents itself, go for it! Your words will infuse the room — and the people in it — with warmth, joy and love.
I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at the fun, festive, and meaningful atmosphere cultivated in many of the electronic spaces, and in an attempt to learn from the best Zoom sessions I’ve attended, I analyzed my video-conferencing experiences of the past year. In doing so, I found that the most successful gatherings involve a few key ingredients.
Q: COVID wedding? My friend is getting married this season, and I’m nervous about attending due to COVID-19. I’m supposed to be a bridesmaid. The bride and groom have indicated that guests are welcome to take any precautions that they are comfortable with but that nothing will be enforced—which means some guests might not wear masks. I have an immunocompromised parent who I help care for, so I’m nervous about attending. But I’m also worried about hurting my friendship with the bride by not going. How should I handle this?
To remain open to the idea that our everyday experiences can be religious experiences is central to our identity as Catholics. It’s called sacramentality, and it rests on the message of the incarnation: God dwells among us and can be seen, touched, and heard in the context of human living. Every tangible element of creation, from the natural environment to human persons, provides an opportunity to encounter God’s presence. As the great Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote: “God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my pick, my paintbrush, my needle—and my heart and my thoughts.”
Moving can be a hassle: It’s often expensive and time-consuming, not to mention emotionally exhausting as it necessitates goodbyes to friends, favorite coffee shops, and beloved routines tied to a previous home. But there are also many benefits of moving.
Here are a few ways that I’ve embraced the “fresh start” mentality in order to make the most of a move.
Even amidst the challenges of 2020, we are given countless opportunities to choose — like the author of Sirach describes — between fire and water, life and death. These three choices help me find life and contribute to life in small but meaningful ways.